Interview with Filmmaker Daniel Hallberg (EAT A SWEDE)

EAT A SWEDE was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the June 2022 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The idea was to create a conversation about sustainable food, making people think about these subjects from a new, quite bizarre, perspective. Food is culture. And changing our cultural habits is hard. But unfortunately the culture of eating animals is causing an untenable situation. As a director I found this theme really interesting and the idea to make a mockumentary about a guy trying to sell human flesh was… funny. My roots are in comedy. And this was one of those ideas that makes your mind come up with funny scene after scene. So I mean, my personal motivation was very much to have fun, to create a funny and bizarre story. But it also felt important to stay logic with the main characters want’s and need’s, which was an exciting challenge.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

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About a year, I think? Research took a while. But then the script, casting and shooting process was really quick. I knew I wanted to find a real scientist for the main character, someone who knew what he was talking about. To create authenticity. So we casted real scientists and I told them to “sell” this human meat product to me, with logic, and without madness. And we were lucky to find Henrik – because he felt credible immediately, and I could tell he was a natural talent when it came to acting. He wasn’t nervous at all, actually except once, after shooting the scene with Alexander Skarsgård, who’s a national treasure to us swedes, Henrik came to me and said: I didn’t wanna tell you before, but since I’ve never done any acting, starting out with Alexander Skarsgård felt a bit stressful.
But we filmed a lot. Basically everything the main character did in New York, from breakfast to bedtime. Just to work as a real documentary production, and then I would feed him improvised lines in real situations. Like, if he had a hamburger for lunch, we would shoot it and I would make him say that it was good, but not as good as his human meat product. So, there were a lot of darlings to kill in editing.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Swedish weirdos.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The scenes with the people getting pranked to eat human meat was an unexpected obstacle. These people were informed that they were about to try a new food product, as a focus group. Since I wanted real reactions we pranked them for real. So Henrik served them tacos, and after everyone had finished their meal he explained that they just had eaten human meat. I was hiding in another room, watching the reactions. And the reactions were all like a positive surprise. People asked if they could taste it some more and joked that they could check cannibalism from their bucket list. It was an interesting reaction, and I felt bad for them. I guess the reaction to the chock was to save their faces. Pretend this isn’t a big deal. And something happens when you put people together in a group, nobody want’s to be the hysterical one that yells: YOU SERVED US HUMAN MEAT?! However, their mild reactions was useless for the film. I obviously wanted people to be disgusted. So we had to throw all that material away, all the focus groups was shot for nothing. But the reactions turned out to be more of what you would imagine as we started filming people alone. One person in front of a camera with a crazy scientist. Actually, a few investors were positive too. Probably just because they were being polite. That material went out the window too.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Super humbled. Kind of touched actually. Like, people take time to watch your work and then say nice things about it. I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was a lot of fun.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I realized when I was about 30 years old that I had always been making sketches and films, but it never really hit me before. I made some sketches when I was like 13, with a DV camera that we had in school. We didn’t have any editing resources though, so I had to shoot it chronologically. Then I made some music videos in high school, a lot of comedy sketches in art school (instead of actual art), then went into advertising and commercials and later on TV. So… I always thought of it as I’m drawn towards comedy, but around 30 I was like: Wait. I should just focus on directing.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Not gonna lie and say some cool French indie movie. Honest answer is Blues Brothers. Love that movie. Most legendary artists ever, performing their awesome music, with two characters from Saturday Night Live. As a huge music nerd and comedy fan it’s the best of two worlds.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Invite me to some kind of screening or party, I guess. It would be fun to shake some hands and see some faces.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Great. (I wasn’t the one that went through the submission)

10. What is your favorite meal?

Lab grown human meat. And if that isn’t on the menu, I’ll have Swedish seafood. Not to brag but our west coast sea food is the best in the world.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I do some acting too, so next up is a role in a new Amazon Prime series. But after that I hope to get a green light for a TV show that I’ve written and want to direct. Been working on it for a long time now. And it’s sort of related to Eat A Swede, in its tone. A kind of dark satire.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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